AgainstMe-TransgenderDysphoriaBlues-AlbumArtworkAgainst Me! is a punk band formed in Gainesville, Florida, in 1997 by singer/guitarist Laura Jane Grace, then known as Tom Gabel. At the time, Against Me! was a solo act for Gabel who would gradually add musicians to the band’s line-up throughout the recording of their early demos and EP’s. Gabel sang openly, if not honestly, about the most intimate of topics.

Against Me! released two cassette demos (Against Me! 1997, Vivida Vis! 1998) and two EP’s (Against Me! 2000, Crime as Forgiven by Against Me! 2001) before their debut full-length, Reinventing Axl Rose (No Idea Records 2002).

The following year, Against Me! Signed to indie-punk powerhouse Fat Wreck Chords where they released their next three albums (As The Eternal Cowboy 2003, Searching For A Former Clarity 2005, and American’s Abroad: Against Me! Live In London 2006). Searching For A Former Clarity was their first album to chart on the Billboard 200, reaching #114. The band would also end up releasing two more collections of demos through Fat Wreck Chords (The Eternal Cowboy 2009, Total Clarity 2011).

With a relentless touring schedule, Against Me! developed a large, loyal following, which helped them make the jump from the indie world to a major label. New Wave, the band’s major label debut, was released in 2007 on Sire Records. The album was produced by Butch Vig (famed producer for Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, AFI and Green Day, as well as many others). New Wave debuted at #57 on the Billboard 200 and featured their first charting single, Thrash Unreal, which reached #11 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart. New Wave was named Spin’s album of the year.

2010 saw the release of their second album with Sire Records, White Crosses, also produced by Butch Vig. White Crosses reached #34 on the Billboard 200.

Against Me Band Photo 2014

Shortly after, the band left Sire Records and launched their own record label, Total Treble Music. In 2011, White Crosses was re-released through Total Treble Music as a double CD package where it included a second CD of demos and acoustic sessions, titled Black Crosses.

In 2012, Grace publicly came out as transgender having dealt with gender dysphoria since childhood. After making the life-changing decision to leave Tom in the past and live as Laura in the future, she began transitioning living as a woman by taking hormones, undergoing electrolysis treatments, and changing her name from Tom Gabel to Laura Jane Grace.

In 2014 the band released their newest album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, through their Total Treble Music label. The album was recorded, engineered, and produced by Grace with Billy Bush (who has worked with Garbage, Neon Trees, Jake Bugg, and The Boxer Rebellion, among others) taking care of the mixing duties. It entered at #23 on the Billboard 200, making it the highest charting position in the band’s history.

Against Me! Have been among America’s finest punk bands for the past decade. Musically, Transgender Dysphoria Blues (TDB) maintains the band’s established warrior-esque punk their fans have come to rely on and Grace’s voice has never sounded better. The chords are the same, however the words tell a vital story different from that of the band’s earlier works.

It is an insightful and highly-provocative concept album with an underlying story about a transgender prostitute dealing with gender dysphoria and the loss of a young friend while going through self discovery to eventually finding love and her own ultimate acceptance.

I see it also as a call-to-arms for the disenfranchised transgender youth detailing alienation, self-loathing, longing for acceptance and love, while mixed with political commentary. The songs are brutally honest and unapologetic about living with the agony of dysphoria and of coming out to a world that is largely transphobic.

The album is powerful and full of life. Like the politically charged statements of the bands past albums, TDB is straightforward in its statements and persistent in refusing to meander around its subject matter. TDB will help re-evaluate some people’s view of our world, even those well-meaning people who can be unknowingly clueless about how to deal with transgender and it’s very existence.

The Album

Transgender Dysphoria Blues kicks off the album with an urgency dealing with the struggle of gender identity head-on. It is a song looking from an outward perspective of wanting to be seen by others the same way you see yourself. Grace sings lines like, “You want them to see you like they see any other girl.” But instead, the people in public, “just see a faggot.” Although told as a story based around a transgender prostitute, it’s hard not to think of the struggles Grace went through wanting “them to see you like they see any other girl.”

True Trans Soul deals with struggling from gender identity in a different way. It takes on the view of what to do with your body when you’ve been given one that doesn’t match how you feel. The next step in accepting who you are. In this song, the lead character wanders the streets “All dressed up and nowhere to go” wondering “Who’s gonna take you home tonight? Does God bless your transsexual heart?” Although built around an uplifting beat, this is a dark song stating, “Yet to be born, you’re already dead.”

In Unconditional Love, she deals with desperately wanting approval however it would not be enough to ‘save’ her.

Drinking With Jocks is an interesting song. At one time, Grace was a male and could have easily blended in with this type of misogynist group without them even knowing that deep down she was really a woman. Now here she is, a woman, singing about a group of people who don’t have the social stigma and pressure that anyone who feels like an outsider might have. This song has a sense of wanting to be part of a group that faces no scrutiny, even if just for a moment. In the end, though, Grace dismantles the thought of going with the ‘dumb-group’ mentality by stating, “There will always be a difference between me and you.”

Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ is a song in which the lead character fears the best she could hope for is being the victim of extreme violence and ritualistic humiliation. A song concerned about how these punishments become symbols within our society. Grace evokes the image of Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci hung from the rafters of a gas station following their execution in the song’s chorus.

FuckMyLife666 is a judgmental third person view on self-doubt and discovery. “Chipped nail polish and a barbed wire dress. Is your mother proud of your eyelashes? Silicone chest and collagen lips. How would you ever recognize me?”

Dead Friend is a song about a person who died way to young. The character kisses her friend in the casket at the funeral and feels love. She misses her friend but is happy that her friend doesn’t have to worry about tomorrow anymore because she is dead. In this song Grace emphatically sings, “Goddamn, I miss my dead friend.”

Two Coffins slows the tempo down. Although a gentle, romantic song, Two Coffins is a dark song about how the lead character will eventually be with her Dead Friend. “Two coffins for sleep, one for you, one for me. We’ll get there eventually.”

Paralytic States describes the scene leading up to a hotel room suicide. Here, the character is “Standing naked in front of that hotel bathroom mirror. In her dysphoria’s reflection she still saw her mother’s son.”

Black Me Out is about feeling like you have to fake the person that you are just to please others around you. Feeling so angry about compromising yourself that you just want to be “blacked out” from their existence. In this song, Grace sings about not wanting to feel that way anymore, as if that person “were my fucking pimp” and “I was your fucking whore.” There is a sense of freedom in Grace’s voice as she demands to be blacked out. She wants to “piss on the walls of your house” and “chop those brass rings off your fat fucking fingers.”

In summary, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a perfect introduction to this new era of Against Me! They recorded an album about a real identity crisis. The songs are built on complicated feelings tackling the issue head on. TDB is one of the most relevant albums to have come out in years making it the band’s ‘punkest’ album to date! Against Me! are a band with purpose and direction and have something to say. The songs carry great urgency, even those that don’t directly concern Grace’s journey.

 

About The Author

Erik's interest in music began at an early age. In high school, he was the co-host of the underground metal show the Social Mutilation Hour, on 89.5 WAHS, under the name of Neurotik Erik. During this period of his life, he independently promoted shows under the name of Ding Dong Ditch Productions. Erik would rent out local VFW Halls, use space at Oakland Community College Auburn Hills Campus, or simply throw basement parties around the Detroit area. While at college at Ferris State University, he became head of the student run organization, Entertainment Unlimited, and continued to promote shows, but on a larger scale. He also helped start an underground magazine, 'Outpunk', where he interviewed bands and wrote music reviews. Additionally, Erik joined the staff at the Ferris State University Torch and wrote on a larger scale.

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